Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Elegies and Epitaphs
Upon the Death of the Lord Hastings
MUST 1 Noble Hastings Immaturely die,
(The Honour of his ancient Family?)
Beauty and Learning thus together meet,
To bring a Winding for a Wedding-sheet?
Must Vertue prove Death’s Harbinger? Must She,        5
With him expiring, feel Mortality?
Is Death (Sin’s wages) Grace’s now? shall Art
Make us more Learned, only to depart?
If Merit be Disease, if Vertue Death;
To be Good, Not to be, who’d then bequeath        10
Himself to Discipline? Who’d not esteem
Labour a Crime, Study self-murther deem?
Our Noble Youth now have pretence to be
Dunces securely, Ign’rant healthfully.
Rare Linguist! whose Worth speaks it self; whose Praise,        15
Though not his Own, all Tongues Besides do raise:
Then Whom Great Alexander may seem less,
Who conquer’d Men, but not their Languages.
In his Mouth Nations speak; 2 his Tongue might be
Interpreter to Greece, France, Italy.        20
His native Soyl was the four parts o’ th’ Earth;
All Europe was too narrow for his Birth.
A young Apostle; and (with rev’rence may
I speak ’it) 3 inspir’d with gift of Tongues, as They.
Nature gave him, a Childe, what Men in vain        25
Oft strive, by Art though further’d, to obtain.
His body was an Orb, his sublime Soul
Did move on Vertue’s and on Learning’s pole:
Whose Reg’lar Motions better to our view,
Then Archimedes Sphere, the Heavens did shew.        30
Graces and Vertues, Languages and Arts,
Beauty and Learning, fill’d up all the parts.
Heav’ns Gifts, which do, like falling Stars, appear
Scatter’d in Others; all, as in their Sphear,
Were fix’d and 4 conglobate in’s Soul, and thence        35
Shone th’row his Body with sweet Influence;
Letting their Glories so on each Limb fall,
The whole Frame render’d was Celestial.
Come, learned Ptolomy, and tryal make,
If thou this Hero’s Altitude canst take;        40
But that transcends thy skill; thrice happie all,
Could we but prove thus Astronomical.
Liv’d Tycho now, struck with this Ray, (which shone
More bright i’ th’ Morn then others Beam at Noon)
He’d take his Astrolabe, and seek out here        45
What new Star ’t was did gild our Hemisphere.
Replenish’d then with such rare Gifts as these,
Where was room left for such a Foul Disease?
The Nations sin hath drawn that Veil which shrouds
Our Day-spring in so sad benighting Clouds.        50
Heaven would no longer trust its Pledge; but thus
Recall’d it; rapt its Ganymede from us.
Was there no milder way but the Small Pox,
The very filth’ness of Pandora’s Box?
So many Spots, like næves, our Venus 5 soil?        55
One Jewel set off with so many a Foil?
Blisters with pride swell’d, which th’row’s flesh did sprout
Like Rose-buds, stuck i’ th’ Lilly-skin about.
Each little Pimple had a Tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit:        60
Who, Rebel-like, with their own Lord at strife,
Thus made an Insurrection ’gainst his Life.
Or were these Gems sent to adorn his Skin,
The Cab’net of a richer Soul within?
No Comet need foretel his Change drew on,        65
Whose Corps might seem a Constellation.
O had he di’d of old, how great a strife
Had been, who from his Death should draw their Life?
Who should by one rich draught become whate’er
Seneca, Cato, Numa, Cæsar, were:        70
Learn’d, Vertuous, Pious, Great, and have by this
An Universal Metempsuchosis.
Must all these ag’d Sires in one Funeral
Expire? All die in one so young, so small?
Who, had he liv’d his life out, his great Fame        75
Had swoln ’bove any Greek or Romane name?
But hasty Winter, with one blast, hath brought
The hopes of Autumn, Summer, Spring, to nought.
Thus fades the Oak i’ th’ sprig, i’ th’ blade the Corn;
Thus, without Young, this Phœnix dies, new born.        80
Must then old three-legg’d gray-beards, with their Gout,
Catarrhs, Rheums, Aches, live three Ages out?
Times Offal, onely fit for th’ Hospital,
Or t’ hang an 6 Antiquaries room withal;
Must Drunkards, Lechers, spent with Sinning, live        85
With such helps as Broths, Possits, Physick give?
None live but such as should die? Shall we meet
With none but Ghostly Fathers in the Street?
Grief makes me rail; Sorrow will force its way;
And Show’rs of Tears, Tempestuous Sighs best lay.        90
The Tongue may fail; but over-flowing Eyes
Will weep out lasting streams of Elegies.
  But thou, O Virgin-widow, left alone,
Now thy Beloved, Heaven-ravisht Spouse is gone,
(Whose skilful Sire in vain strove to apply        95
Med’cines, when thy Balm was no remedy)
With greater than Platonick love, O wed
His Soul, tho’ not his Body, to thy Bed:
Let that make thee a Mother; bring thou forth
Th’ Ideas of his Vertue, Knowledge, Worth;        100
Transcribe th’ Original in new Copies: give
Hastings o’ th’ better part: so shall he live
In’s Nobler Half; and the great Grandsire be
Of an Heroick Divine Progenie:
An Issue which t’ Eternity shall last,        105
Yet but th’ Irradiations which he cast.
Erect no Mausolæums: for his best
Monument is his Spouses Marble brest.
Note 1. Text from the original in Lachrymae Musarum, 1650. The text has never been correctly reprinted in England. [back]
Note 2. speak] English editors give spake This reading makes the passage easier, but it is not likely to be right. [back]
Note 3. ’it] English editors give it. Perhaps ’t should be read. [back]
Note 4. fix’d and] Editors till Christie wrongly omit and. [back]
Note 5. our Venus] Derrick and others wrongly give on Venus’. [back]
Note 6. t’ hang an] Editors till Christie wrongly to hang Christie prints to hang an; room] English editors wrongly give rooms. [back]

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